Japan-born Ishiguro won the Man Booker Prize for the 1989 novel that was made into an Oscar-nominated movie. The Swedish Academy hailed his ability to reveal “the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.
The award of the $1.1 million prize marks a return to a more mainstream interpretation of literature after it went to American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan last year.
The works of Ishiguro, who moved to Britain as a young child, often touch on memory, time and self-delusion, the Academy said.
“He is a little bit like a mix of Jane Austen, comedy of manners and Franz Kafka. If you mix this a little, not too much, you get Ishiguro in a nutshell,” said Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.
Ishiguro began to gain attention in the 1980s for works such as “A Pale View of the Hills” and won global fame for “The Remains of the Day,” a story of a fastidious and repressed butler in postwar Britain. The movie version starred Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.
Ishiguro takes his place beside Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Doris Lessing and Ernest Hemingway as winner of the world’s most prestigious literary award.
Critics said the decision to give last year’s prize to Dylan was a snub to more deserving candidates and strayed beyond what is traditionally deemed literature.
The prize is named after dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.